Thanks to Governor Tom McCall and the activism of countless Oregonians, the state’s 363 miles of coastline are a free and open playground to all.
Oregon has 363 miles of coastline, and, thanks to the Oregon Beach Bill, it’s all open to the public for exploration. The landmark bill, which allows for free and uninterrupted access to Oregon’s beaches, was signed into law July 6, 1967 by Governor Tom McCall. This year, the entire state is celebrating the bill’s fiftieth anniversary and its important legacy in the Pacific Northwest.
“The Beach Bill is huge to us,” said Kristin Roslund, a partner in the Overleaf Lodge & Spa. “It is all about access. Our guests and the public at large have access to the beach and tidepools and all the plethora of micro marine environments up and down the coast.”
In 1966, public access to the 262 miles of beaches was challenged by a motel owner on the coast who wanted to stake off a section of the beach for private use. The beaches had long been thought of as entirely public as they had been established as a public highway by Governor Oswald West in 1913, which launched a boom of tourism on the Oregon Coast.
In response, Governor Tom McCall and the State Highway Committee introduced what became known as the Beach Bill to the 1967 state legislature. In May of that year, Governor McCall went to Cannon Beach in a dramatic media showing to show his support for the bill, which inspired thousands of Oregonians to write to the Oregon Legislature in support of the Beach Bill. The bill passed on July 6, 1967, and Oregonians were granted the continued access of every mile of Oregon’s beaches.
Oregonians take pride in their state’s beaches, and regard them as a shared piece of public land. Though it is not the only bill of its kind—it was modeled after a similar piece of legislation in Texas—the Beach Bill set the stage for the Oregon Coast as a tourist destination in the state and in the Pacific Northwest. Thousands of people travel to the Oregon Coast to explore the diverse coastline. From hiking and surfing to beachcombing and kite-flying, the Oregon Coast is a place of endless opportunity and activity.
“Our guests are not just limited to the few hundred feet of oceanfront in front of our lodging properties. Our guests have access to so much more marine experiences by this access,” said Roslund. “And it is all about the experience.”
Events celebrating the fiftieth year of the Beach Bill commenced on May 13, 2017, when Governor McCall’s son Tad McCall gave a toast at Cannon Beach, the same beach his dad landed on in 1967.
“This beach is a beach of history,” said McCall, according to the Daily Astorian. “This is where the picture of freedom of the beach was painted.”
Throughout the summer, the Surfrider Foundation is organizing a series of beach cleanup days in honor of the Beach Bill. Join other Oregonians to help keep Oregon’s beaches clean and safe. For more information about the events and how you can join, visit Surfrider’s website.
Oregon’s beaches are a treasure to its residents and anyone who visits. From Astoria on the northern coast to Brookings in the south, Oregon’s diverse coastline and beaches offer infinite opportunities for fun and adventure—all thanks to Oregon’s leaders and residents who worked to preserve it for the public.